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Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has committed to bringing the Tobacco Control Act to Parliament early in the next financial year.

The legislation, which is in the drafting stages, seeks to protect citizens from the harmful effects of tobacco, including the banning of smoking in public and workplaces.

“I am committed, as Minister, to bring by the first quarter of financial year 2013-14 a (Comprehensive) Tobacco Control Act that will deal with smoke-free work place and public space. This is something we have to look at,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson, who was speaking at the National World Diabetes Day breakfast meeting at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston on Wednesday, said the legislation is an integral part of the Government’s bid to address the increase in non-communicable diseases.

The Comprehensive Tobacco Control Act is designed to reduce demand for tobacco products over time, protect persons and the environment from tobacco smoke, and prevent the elicit supply of tobacco products. Enactment of the legislation is in keeping with obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Jamaica ratified in July 2005.

The breakfast meeting, held under the theme: ‘Diabetes Protect Our Future’, was organised by the Ministry.

The Health Minister said that death and disability from diabetes and non-communicable diseases can be prevented by addressing the four main lifestyle risk factors, which are physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.

He informed that one in 13 Jamaicans, aged 15-74 years old, have diabetes and one in four Jamaicans are not aware that they have the condition.  He noted that obesity is a driving factor for diabetes, and one in four Jamaicans 15-74 years old, are obese.   He said that 80 per cent of Type II diabetes is preventable by addressing the risk factors.

Dr. Ferguson stated that Government is putting measures in place to encourage Jamaicans to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and has already raised excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco control.  

“In keeping with the FCTC, the projection would be that tobacco tax would be somewhere in the region of 52 per cent. We, in Jamaica, are already ahead, we are somewhere in the region of 60 per cent in that regard,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson said that other intervention measures include: restricting access to retail alcohol; enforcing bans on alcohol advertising; reducing salt and sugar content in packaged and prepared foods and drinks; promoting public awareness about diet and physical activity through education and consumer information; and restricting the marketing of foods and beverages high in salt, fats and sugar, especially to children.

According to the Health Minister, poverty exposes persons to the main risk factors for diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

He noted further that diabetes leads to the loss of household income due to unhealthy behaviours, poor physical capacities, long-term treatment, and high cost of health care.

“The epidemic is predicted to impede the poverty reduction initiatives that the Government have undertaken and the World Health Report states that 100 million people are pushed into poverty because they had to pay directly for health services,” he said.